Birth ceremonies of the Jingpo Nationality

 

When a pregnant woman is going to have a baby an old woman with experience in these matters is called to help. (1) She will take the newborn and, after his first crying, will cut the umbilical cordon with a bamboo knife sterilized on the fire. Later she will wrap the cordon and the placenta with a bamboo leave, which will be buried beside one of the posts of the house. Jingpo people believe that burying the umbilical cordon beside the house, makes that when the child grows old will not forget the house he was born.

From then on, old folks of the village will play a very important role in the ceremonies that would take place during the following days.

Just after the umbilical cordon is buried, an old folk will be invited to bind his wrist with cotton strings (2), if the new born is a boy a red (3) string will be tied in his right wrist; if is a girl will be tied to her left wrist. In this moment an old man will give name to the newborn. Giving a name means that he is already in the human world, the spirits can not disturb him and will be safe and quiet.

After receive a name, an old man will bless the newborn. He usually will carry dry meat, dry fish, fresh ginger and some fragrant vegetables and will pronounce some words as: "My congratulations to the head of this family as it increase with a new member. Let the newborn grow healthy, be free of sickness and disgraces and the whole family enjoy fortune and happiness."

The most important ritual regarding birth is celebrated on the seventh day; the called Hka prupru ceremony. This day, when the sun rises, an old lady carrying the newborn at her back, as well as his father's sword and other carrying his harpoon will arrive to the house. Helped by these two old ladies the new mother will descend of the house, and together they will wash some things. From then on the mother will resume her domestic labors. Later in the morning they will invite the people of the village, with a chicken killed for the feast and wine generously offered... The food will be wrapped in small portions with some banana leaves that will be offered to each visitor. It is a way of announce the good news.

Pedro Ceinos

Notes

(1) The basic information for this short article appeared in Liu Gang, Shi Rui and Wang Jiao.- Jingpo zu wenhua shi (Cultural history of the Jingpo Nationality). Yunnan Nationalities Press. Kunming, 2002.

(2) To bind the wrist of the children with cotton strings is a kind of blessing among other peoples linguistically related with the Jingpo. Among the Lahu Nyi, living in north Thailand, Anthony Walker, (Shi- Nyi Lon: Great merit days among the Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu) of North Thailand. Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 43, 1984, 275-302.) informs that this rite symbolizes the passing of the elders' blessings to the youngsters. Is performed in most of their religious festivals, and is considered also part of the healing process when a member of the community gets sick.

Among the Hani, Paul w Lewis y Bai Bibo (Hani Cultural Themes) inform us that: "On the 5th day of the 5th month peoples' wrists must have strings tied around them. It is a mark of being human, since spirits do not have strings. At night those who do not have such strings tied on the wrist, specially babies, will be taken away by the spirits. When going far away strings must be tied around one's wrist." (pag. 12).

(3) The red colour symbolizes "life" among the Jingpo and other peoples living in China. The use of a string of this colour stresses the blessing of the old people.

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